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tv   Washington Week  PBS  November 26, 2010 8:00pm-8:30pm PST

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michele: the turkey has been served, the cash registers are ringing, but there's a lot of work ahead in the nation's capital. i'm michele norris sitting in for gwen ifill this week. questions of leadership, law, and presidential ambition tonight on "washington week." a thanksgiving week break makes way for a full plate ahead. for the president, there are big challenges at home. >> in the coming days it's so important, in the coming months it's so important that democrats and republicans work together. the election's over. we've got to find places where we can agree. michele: and challenges abroad. >> it is important for the american people to remember that afghanistan is not just an american battle. michele: for the g.o.p., is the republican with the most name
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recognition serious about running in 2012? >> if you ran for president, could you beat barack obama? >> i believe so. michele: and the supreme court, with a new justice on the bench, prepares to chew on several weighty issues, including immigration and benefits for returning veterans. covering these stories, peter baker of the "new york times," john dickerson of "slate magazine" and cbs news, and joan biskupic of "usa today." >> award-winning reporting and analysis. covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capitol, this is "washington week with gwen ifill," produced in association with "national journal." corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> in 1975, my professor at berkeley asked me if i wanted to change the world. i said sure. that's the start of it.
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"washington week" is provided by the ethics and he will concerns in journalism foundation, -- excellence in journalism foundation, the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, substituting for gwen ifill, michele norris of npr. michele: good evening. i hope your thanksgiving holiday was bountiful. now that the president has finished his holiday celebrations, he faces a difficult road ahead. as the white house regroups after two overseas trips that produced mixed results, and as the administration reconsiders how to press ahead after mr. obama's self described "shellacking" in the mid-term elections. complicating matters, the u.s. must decide how to respond to north korea's military aggression this week. the president himself has
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acknowledged that the weeks ahead present a test of leadership. and, peter, forget about the republican takeover of the house. it looks like the president has significant challenges in the lame duck session ahead. >> you think your plate is full, he has a lot on his plate and not a lot to be thankful. he has had a couple weeks since the election. look at what is on agenda since then. asian trade, tax cuts, nato summit, the new start traity, afghanistan transition, iran talks maybe, middle east maybe, unemployment, the dream act, the t.s.a. patdowns. that's before north korea starts opening fire at its southern neighbor. this is at a time when we should be thinking how to recalibrate his presidency to move ahead. any one of these things provide a test long before he has the chance to recatch his breath and think about what i want to do in this new political environment. >> i'm interesting in his thinking right now. you were on the overseas trip, you spent a lot of time with him. he talked about the results of
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the midterm election as being a shell lacking and he said the republican victory wasn't exactly a resounding victory. it was almost like an unearned win. >> it's a message for the people to work together. the republicans see it as a mandate to stop what they see as the overreaching of president obama's agenda. you have this a remarkable moment where the president says come on down to the white house, we'll talk. the republicans say, we're going to come, but not when you say. let's wait another week or two. we have things to do, mr. president. next week's meeting, in fact, takes place, it will be an interesting test in this moment of bipartisanship or partisanship. >> let me ask you about another moment that we're at. we have come off of the foreign policy issues, the lisbon summit, the issue with north korea and on the front burner for a lot of people is the afghan pullout if it indeed happens. is that still on schedule? what did you learn in lisbon
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about that and are things headed toward 2014? >> well, foreign policy is usually the refuge of a president who gets in trouble at home. that's the one place where congress doesn't have as much as a role to play and the president can look like a leader. it didn't work out well for on the asia trip. he came home with support from the europeans and the russian leader. >> we had to massage that a little bit. >> he had to massage that and it's not sure that will be very convincing to republicans in the united states senate when it comes to ratifying his treaty. north cabrera tells us you don't have control of this overseas agenda it's not what you want to do often. it's what comes up as a crisis for you to deal with. who wants to be refighting the korean war 60 years later. not barack obama and not most americans. >> the president is refighting another old battle when he comes back and meets with these republican leaders on tax cuts. if nothing happens, everybody gets a tax increase because the bush tax cuts are going to
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expire. if you don't cut taxes for everybody, we're going to let them expire. the president said i want a permanent one for the middle class and he is open for a temporary one with the wealthy. they're at loggerheads but the president says they're going to work together. how is this resolved? >> there is a deadline. they're not leaving with a tax increase for all americans. i suppose a lot of unfathomable have happened, but it's hard to imagine. we're talking about what are the terms of the deal? are we going to have a deal now or punt it down the road? punting looks very viable at the moment for both sides. the question is how do you punt it? the white house would like to decouple them. one solution for the middle class tax cut, another solution for the wealthy. when we deal with the wealthy down the road, we extend it for a year or two years, it's not about everybody. the republicans say no way, we're not going to do that. it's all or nothing. >> peter, you talked about a
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certain recalibration at the white house? what does that mean? we haven't seen a major shuffling yet? >> the personnel changes that we have seen before the election and probably coming up in the next few weeks are really about moving people around who are already inside president obama's orbit. david axelrod is likely to leave after the state of the union. his campaign manager from 2008 likely to come in in early january. this is not an influx of fresh voices and eyes and ears. what it says so far is the president doesn't see the need for a wholesale reshuffle. he looks down on the perennial washington solution to a political problem of, you know, throwing out a bunch of aides and bringing in some new ones. the problem is you have a bad economy and the choices that were made were ultimately made by the president. >> i'm wondering, we talked about the problem that the president and the white house faces. are there though some opportunities? i'm thinking about the start treaty? >> certainly. in moments of trouble come
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moments of opportunity. certainly that has been true for past presidents. we saw that for president clinton after the 1994 election. for president obama, they hope on the new start treaty to shame the republicans in the senate to either go along with him which would make him long stronger after a pretty debilitating election night, for if for some reason, they were to block it, he can blame them and portray them as so unwilling to work with him that they would block a treaty that were endorsed by james baker and other republicans. >> everything is colored by the election. he just said during michele's introduction, the election is over. just what you said about the response on start and also what you said to john on the tax cuts, there is another election that is so much right there right now, 2012. >> one election is over, let the election begin. >> do we have any kind of window for the tax cuts, but maybe not
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for start? >> speaking of 2012, making a slash with the release of her highly anticipated book, sarah palin in her latest publication, the former republican vice presidentful candidate tackles everything from politics to pop culture with her stringing critique of both obamas and her praise for simon cowell, the judge on "american idol." sarah palin seems to be everywhere all the once, with her alaska-based reality tv show, her daughter bristol's run for the top trophy on "dancing with the stars," her constant presence on twitter and the book tour that will take her to some of the major presidential primary states like arizona, iowa, and south carolina. but some high profile republicans are not cheering the palin parade including one prominent first lady and first mother. >> what's your read about sarah palin? >> i sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful. and i think she's very happy in alaska, and i hope she'll stay
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there. >> add to that some recent polling that shows many people don't believe sah palin is qualified to be president. so, john, where is all this going? >> barbara bush, still throwing the elbow there all the way across the country. i think sarah palin has built this amazing machine which is on the one hand, it's a prepresidential machine, on the other hand, it's a book selling machine. they both have magically been able to serve each other. she is going out there and she is selling her book and the speculation begins in part because she is fueling it saying i'm thinking very seriously about a run. her husband is pushing her towards a run. she answers barbara walter's questions and says she thinks she can take on the president. she is an incredibly good marketer. for her purposes, she doesn't have to make a decision yet. they serve themselves. she looks like a person who is running for president. >> as we all know at this table, a presidential run is something quite different than just marketing a personality or
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marketing a book. you wrote an interesting piece this week that lays out some of the obstacles she might face if she really decides to get serious? >> i think there are three big obstacles for sarah palin. one of the polls you mentioned. the biggest is her unfavorable rating, the average is 51, 52. that's quite high. not the highest it's ever been, bill clinton had a higher unfavorable rating. she has to get over that. people have to like you. she is popular with republicans, not popular with independents and moderates. there is the competency question. 61% said they didn't think she was qualified for the job. that includes a lot of republicans. the third is she is a hard worker. no one could be in so many places as she is. you almost expect to see her at the local starbucks. that hard work needs to translate into another kind of hard work for the campaign and campaigns are drudgery and they are unpleasant and so she would have to kind of buy into the grind of that because you can't really fake it in a campaign.
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>> does she have early organization in iowa, new hampshire? >> she has the mama grizzlies. she has this extraordinary fan base. this is another reason why you can imagine she would run. as much as she loves alaska and her family, when you have these people that ask you to run, beg you, you can't resist this call. she has these people who are willing to crawl across the desert to work for her. that is a ready-made organization. it's not enough. rudy giuliani thought he had that support, so did fred thompson, just add water to the support and i'll win. those two candidate sis were total failures. she is smart enough to know about that. the organization would require expanding her circle. she has a tight-knit circle that works well for her. she has to expand it, trust people in states she doesn't know. that trust can be triplesome, you trust people that don't only have your interests as closely
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in mind as the circle she has now. >> let me pick up on the barbara bush comment who represents the republican establishment if anybody does. can sarah palin pull this off without the republican establishment? >> well, if she is going to win, she will have to get around some of these obstacles. one of them is that this question about her competency and her popularity comes not just from the left or the lame street media as we're all calling it, which is another clever trick on her part, but she has got barbara bush, karl rove, murkowski who she has a personal spat, a senator from alaska. she can probably did it because the establishment will finally get in line with is power. there are a lot of establishment people thought at that time tea party thought they were noisy. mitch mcconnell gave up earmarks because the tea party holds control. she needs to get power in a way that the establishment can worry about.
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you'll see people start to come behind her. >> what about the reality show? talk about that for a second. that is not a convectional path. this doesn't look presidential says karl rove. i was talking to someone else that wasn't a sarah palin fan. she came off authentic. it changes her view of her. >> they try to come across as you then particular, george herbert walker seeing in the clip, he ate pork rinds. they tried to do this with nixon which was a lost cause. sarah palin comes across in that show as quite authentic. you can't fake the things she is doing. she has that in her corner. that's why so many of her people, they love her. she is authentic and tells it like it is. the problem with the approval ratings, moderates and independents, if they don't like you you tell it like it is, she goes back to the 1960's. she disinters murphy brown, the
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kennedy speech or religion, a lot of values, kind of confrontational things. if you're trying to get people like you, some may like it, others may think that is a little abrasive. how does this message mix with the tv show? that mix will determine whether she is able to do it or not. michele: meanwhile, over at the supreme court, we are two months into the latest term. it is a court with three women on the bench for the first time, but nonetheless, there have not been big ideological shifts. the court will tackle or consider a number of hot button issues in the weeks ahead, including a controversial immigration statute in arizona and a class action civil rights lawsuit against wal-mart. but first, joan, what have we seen in the early months of this newly composed court. >> you have been watching sarah palin, elena kagan is in our sights. she is the newest justice. we have just sotomayor who has
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been on six months herself. it's a whole new bench. both of those new justices are quite active. elena kagan because she used to be the government's top lawyer before the supreme court has had to recuse herself, take herself out of a handful of government cases. in the ones that she is in, she is very focused. she mixes it up. she gets in there and asks a lot of pointed questions. she is a real player during or alarguments and on the -- oral arguments and on the law. she is making a difference. at the same time, despite the changes, we have seen a lot of the same ideological divisions, five conservatives still on the bench, chief justice john roberts and sca leah, kennedy, thomas, and alito on one side and the liberal appointees from presidents clinton and obama on the other side. that emerged, for example, in one case, the justices by a 5-4 vote let an arizona murderer be
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executed with a lethal injection that was part from chemicals obtained abroad. it was the very first time that apparently lethal injection had gone forward with chemicals that were not manufactured here and it was the conservative majority led by john robert saying no, we don't think there is any problem, but the liberals protested, elena kagan cast her first major vote there. >> joan, there are a lot of interesting cases ahead, is there one in particular that is worth talking about? >> that's a tough question. they're all so interesting. let me tell you that is under the radar screen in light of the fact that we're in two wars right now in afghanistan and iraq. there is a case that will be heard on december 6, monday, in the new sitting where the justices will look at a veteran from the korean war who was denied some veterans benefits.
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he had come back from cabrera with paranoid schizophrenia, he had been deemed 100% disabled because of the service and the mental health issues. he had filed for additional in-home care as an older vet, had been denied and missed a deadline for appeal by this 120-day deadline for appeal by a short period and was shut down in all lower courts. they said you missed the deadline, you don't get benefits. so he is appealing in a case that's very sympathetic for him. he has recently passed away and his widow has taken the case. what do we have, about 40,000 returning vets with injuries who are all going through the v.a. system. it's going to be a very important case to see how the justices interpret this statute and say, you missed a deadline, pal, you're out of luck. >> you talk about chief justice roberts, he has been on the court five years. what do we learn about him as a leader of this court? how has he put his mark on it? >> it's interesting, he has been part of this very conservative
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block still. he is liked among his colleagues, that's for sure, but he has not been as willing to compromise on some things as it appeared that his predecessor, chief just william rehnquist did. he has been pretty hardlined. at oral arguments, i was mentioning to michele, he had to play a bit of a traffic cop role now because of how active this bench is. i have heard him say, he'll be watching arguments, could you please go back to the justice breyer's question, you were cut off by justice sca leah. he has shown himself to be consistently what president bush wanted on the court, a strong conservative. >> joan, do we know anything about how these new folks get along? is there any special relationships that have grown in this new court? >> that's a good question. they're appointed for life, so for better or for worse. elena kagan recently when skeet
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shooting with our favorite hunting justice, justice sca leah, they get along splendidly. she is her kind of liberal. ruth bader ginsberg is a friend of his also. they go to the opera together. kagan used to be at the law school where they went. they are pals. >> where they show up for the state of the union. >> steven breyer says it's a lot of fun, he'll go. i don't know that all of them will. michele: that will wrap it up for tonight, but our conversation continues on-line with the "washington week" webcast extra. be sure to check it out at and also look for our latest entry from the vault where we take you back to thanksgiving week, 1993. i'm michele norris. gwen will be back around the table next week, on "washington week." good night.
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